Sometimes when you watch a soccer match, the nuances of each squad can be easily missed when looking at the overall match score.  Those nuances tell a story of where each team is heading and what fans can expect as the NWSL season heats up.  Forget about just one match – last weekend told a tale of two teams going in two separate directions.

On the surface, Gotham FC and the Orlando Pride were even during this match.

In front of a home crowd of 5,258, the Orlando Pride made a valiant effort in their fight to hold on last Saturday night against the visiting Gotham FC.  I watched a good portion of this match on television, and for the most part, it looked like a reasonably even draw between the two sides, and the 0-0 score matched the overall pace of this match as both teams went back and forth.

However, seventeen minutes were added to the second-half stoppage time, and those critical moments became the time needed for Gotham FC to take care of business.  Of course, a handball penalty inside the box helped Gotham and Midge Purce take care of business in the 107th minute of this match.  Just like that, an even, high-energy 0-0 draw moved closer to a victory and three badly-needed points for the visiting Gotham FC.  In the absolute last minute of stoppage time, Lynn Williams was able to break through the Pride defense and added an insurance goal as the match was finally called to an end.

From a simple match review standpoint, Gotham FC took advantage of situations when they presented themselves and left Florida with a 2-1-0 record and three needed points from the win.  However, the story doesn’t just end there.  This is a story of two soccer teams heading in two opposite directions.

Gotham FC looks for respect and consistency this season.

When you’re the worst team in a league the previous season, it’s hard for your opponents to take you seriously when a new year arrives.  Last year’s Gotham FC was, to put it plainly, an awful team, but guess what – it’s a new year with renewed hopes, and that same squad from 2022 is now looking to become a solid, consistent competitor in the NWSL and is on track to accomplish this task.

Vising Orlando to play the Pride in April when it’s still cold in the northeast sounds like a bit of a dream road match for Gotham FC;  with six unbeaten visits to Florida in a row, what team could resist being paired up with an opponent who’s been on a losing streak against your side?  Even with a winning streak, Gotham FC still found that the Pride offered up an intense fight until the very end of this match, and that can only benefit both teams down the road.

What direction is each team heading this season?

With their big win in Orlando Saturday night, Gotham FC can erase some of the stings from their 2-0 loss in their home opener against the OL Reign.  Additionally, Gotham FC has found the net again and now has a net goal advantage of +1 off of 13 shots on target in the last three matches.  It may be too early to tell, but this season’s squad seems to be trying to erase a dismal 2022 from their memories.  With loaded talent, Gotham FC should start making their way up the NWSL table in the next few weeks.

The Orlando Pride looks like they’re heading in the opposite direction, with only one goal scored, and eight goals conceded so far in the early part of the NWSL season.  With only a 3.7% conversion rate on goals (27 total shots, one goal scored,) the Pride needs to wake up their attack, or their 0-3-0 record can easily become more of a nightmare as the 2023 season progresses. Warmer weather starts waking up opponent offenses.

The one bright spot for the Orlando Pride rested in the first start of goalkeeper Kaylie Collins who didn’t concede a single goal in regulation time.  Nobody should hold a goalie accountable for losing on a penalty kick, and Lynn William’s attack in the final ticking moments of stoppage time was more of a collapse of a tired Pride defense than Collin’s being flat-footed and beaten while defending her line.

I expect good things down the road for this young keeper, and the Pride will be grateful for her if she can keep them in matches.  One thing is certain for both teams – they will have a very short rest period and will be back in action in the NWSL Challenge Cup this week.

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